Monday, October 13, 2008

Meet the Mets, meet the Mets...

I knew that song by heart and sang it during at the beginning and end of every game as a kid. I know I talked about the Yankees - but they were and are my 'adult' team. As a kid, I was a Met fan, a fan of the hapless, clutzy, find a new way to lose each game -- Mets. They built Shea Stadium to coincide with the World's Fair of 1963 at Flushing Meadows.
As a 10 year old this was a really cool time! We went to games often and once, while the fair was still running, we had dinner at the restaurant at the fair and then walked over to the stadium to watch the game. I even think we once ate at the Diamond Club, a restaurant in the stadium that overlooked the field. That was way cool!

It was so much easier to drive into Queens from farther out on Long Island where I grew up than to trek to the South Bronx which, at the time, didn't have the best of reputations. Plus, the Mets were fun to watch even when they lost, which was often. The Yankees on the other hand were painful to watch lose.

That all changed with the 1969 season. I was in high school and the Mets were actually in contention for the pennant! I smuggled into school a small transistor radio (boy, am I dating myself!) and listened to the game between classes sometimes leaving the radio on because the Mets were up and I had to hear how the inning ended. Some of my teachers were even sympathetic to the cause, but most made me turn the radio off. Several of us had the radio on after school during Bisonette practice, much to the annoyance of our coach - frankly, we didn't care! Those days the playoff games were held in the afternoon and it was before the wild card was brought into play. But the kicker came when my Dad managed to get two tickets to the 1969 World Series. My mom was going to take the train in and take my 'little brother' Brion. I was shocked, I was horrified. I was devoted to the Mets, I deserved to go! What did my brother know - nada, nothing. Just because he was a boy he deserved to go! I lobbied, I pleaded, I begged, I whined, PULLLEEEZZZEE let me go!! I can take the train! (I had with my girlfriends). It was easy! Just get on in Massapequa Park (my hometown) change at Jamaica for the Flushing line and get off right outside the stadium!! PULLLEEEZZZEEEEE!!

Well it worked! My parents let me take Brion and we went on the train together to the World Series! I gotta tell you, the game is one big blur. I think Seaver pitched and I know they won that game but the rest I have no clue. It was the ride home that stands out in my mind. We got back on the train to go to Jamaica but instead of changing trains to take the Babylon line, we stayed on the train and ended up in Hempstead or Hicksville, not where we should have been. I screwed up big time. Not good after convincing my parents I could get to and back from the stadium with my eyes closed! I managed to get directions to the bus station and got us on a bus that was going to Massapequa. We got off in Massapequa (not Massapequa Park) because I was afraid the bus wouldn't stop at our town and I knew I could bluff my way through an excuse as to why I got off there instead of my home station.

Years later, when Norm and I were living on Long Island while he was pursuing his doctorate, we would go to Met games with friends. It was a relatively cheap evening. We'd bring dinner, tailgate and we'd go to nights they had fireworks. We'd bring cards or Yahtzee with us because it took us forever to get out of the parking lot. We'd sit there for an hour or so after the game and wait for the jam to subside.

Flash forward to 1986. I was working at Quest in New Jersey and we had two cool salesmen, Dan and Tom. Dan had one of the company TV's set up in his office and we'd watch the games in the afternoon, finding excuses to walk back and forth from his office. Then we'd camp out after work ended because these games were nail biters. I can't tell you how many times the Mets were down to their last out, or their last strike! Still, they came back. I didn't want to leave work and drive the 30 minutes back to PA for fear of what I would miss! We did that for two or three days.
Today. I don't follow the Mets anymore but I managed to catch the last game ceremony on one of the NY sports networks because they too have built a new ball park right next to the old one. No more 'Shea' now it's going to be Citi Field or something. They were introducing the 'Old Timers' but these guys weren't old to me. These men would walk out onto the field and I sat there saying to myself "I know you...OMG! Bud Harrelson!, Ed Kranepool, Ron Swoboda, Jesse Orosoco, Gary Carter, Cleon Jones, Tommy Agee, Jerry Grote, Jerry Koosman, Lee Mazzilli and 'Tom Terrific' - Tom Seaver. There were other names, some there, some not - Nolan Ryan, Gil Hodges, Casey Stengel, Yogi Berra, Willie Mays and Tug McGraw...
The Mets were my youth. I grew as they did. They were fun to watch, even when they lost. They provided me with my love for baseball today and have given me wonderful memories. Shea was no palace. It definitely didn't have the mystique that Yankee Stadium has. But it was the home of my baseball roots and I will miss it.

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